Archive for September, 2009

Barry: Round Two with the Blogosphere riding Shotgun

September 30th, 2009 2 comments

Given the problems that I’ve been having lately with getting my Blackberry calendar and contacts to synchronize with anything in Linux, I was quite surprised when I almost got it working tonight. Forgetting everything that I’ve learned about the process, I started over, following these helpful tutorials and working through the entire install from the beginning. Unfortunately, aside from some excellent documentation of the install process (finally), the only new idea that those blogs provided me with was to try syncing the phone with different pieces of software. Specifically, Chip recommended KDEPIM, although I opted to  jump through a few more hoops before giving in and dropping the Thunderbird/Lightning combination entirely.

After a bit more mucking about, I decided to give up Lightning and installed Iceowl, Debian’s rebranding of Mozilla Sunbird, instead. Iceowl is the standalone calendar application that Lightning is based on, and is a very lightweight solution that is supposed to cooperate with the opensync-plugin-iceowl package. In theory, this allows calendar data to be shared between my device and the Iceowl calendar after configuring the plugin to read my Iceowl calendar from the /home/username/.mozilla/iceowl/crazyfoldername/storage.sdb file. In practice, the sync process gets locked up every time:

Screenshot-PIM Synchronization - KitchenSync-1

Why must you tease me?

Well, I’ve tried everything that I can think of to get my phone to synchronize with any Mozilla product. I’m very close to giving up, which is a shame, because they really are superior products. The ridiculousness of the entire thing is that I can easily dump my PIM data to a folder, and Thunderbird stores it’s data in an SQLite database. If this were Windows, I’d have written a VB app to fix my problems hours ago… Anybody know any python?

Update: I’ve also managed to successfully synchronize my phone with the Evolution mail client. Unfortunately, Evolution looks rather pale next to Thunderbird. In fact, the entire reason that I switched to Thunderbird about a week ago is that Evolution mysteriously stopped receiving my IMAP email with no explanation. No new email comes in, and the Send/Receive button is grayed out. Until now, I was happy with my decision, as Thunderbird is a superior application.


September 30th, 2009 1 comment

Hi Everyone,

Sorry about the lack of updates. I’ve been pretty busy lately. After a lot of fighting and arguing, Linux and I are finally getting along.

I was unsuccessful in installing Linux as I had mentioned early, by running it from my portable hard drive off of my Mac. As a result, I decided to wipe the Ubuntu partition on my Asus eeePC and install openSUSE on there. It was fairly simple to do, and it installed without much hassle. This guide came in handy with the smooth transition.

Although Gentoo is definitely the best flavour of Linux I’ve encountered, openSUSE hasn’t been too bad.

With that being said, I have a few tasks for the coming days, and I will be sure to post about all of them. First, I want to install a softphone to connect to my Asterisk server. Jake has said after some fighting he managed to get this to work. If I run into issues, I can always ask him. Additionally, I have to get Eclipse set up with some various environments I’m going to have to use in the coming weeks. I’ve successfully set it up to work in OpenGL thus far.

That’s it for now. I’ll be posting more in the next few days as I accomplish these tasks.

Barry: The Open-Sourced Blackberry Utility

September 30th, 2009 No comments

There is no denying that the installation process for the Barry project sucks. That said, the promise of having the ability to sync my blackberry with a linux-based calendar application like Mozilla’s Thunderbird or the Evolution mail client kept me working at it through the wee hours of the night. The Barry site at Sourceforge provides not one, not two, but four Debian packages (which rely on an additional two undocumented packages), that need to be downloaded and installed in a specific and undocumented order:

  1. libbarry0_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)
  2. barry-util_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)
  3. libglademm-2.4-1c2a (
  4. barrybackup-gui_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)
  5. libopensync0 (
  6. opensync-plugin-barry_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)

With the packages installed, I launched a terminal and used the auto-complete feature to find the command barrybackup. At first, I couldn’t figure out what it’s syntax was, until I realized that it doesn’t need any arguments, because it simply launches a GUI (that doesn’t appear anywhere in my Applications menu) that lets you back up your device databases:

Screenshot-Barry Backup

Well, thats a handy utility, assuming that it is also capable of restoring the backups to the device. I shied away from trying the restore feature, as I didn’t have access to a Windows box with which to fix the device should the worst happen.

I’m currently using Mozilla’s Thunderbird (re-branded in Debian as Icedove) as my primary mail client, along with the Lightning calendar plugin, and would be thrilled if I could synchronize it with my Blackberry. You’ll note that libopensync and a Barry opensync plugin were both a part of the installation process; having never used libopensync, I had a tough time figuring out how to make them cooperate.

The opensync page on Wikipedia lead me to install the multisync-tools package, which claims to be able to “synchronize calendars, address books and other PIM data between programs on your computer and other computers, mobile devices, PDAs or cell phones. It relies on the OpenSync  framework to do the actual synchronisation.” I have PIM data that I would like to sync! I have the OpenSync framework! We’re on a roll!

Finally, I installed the multisync-0.90 GUI and opensync-plugin-evolution v0.22-2 opensync plugin packages, which should have allowed me to sync between the Evolution mail client and my phone. I chose to try the process with this software first, as a plugin for Thunderbird was not immediately available. Unfortunately, when attempting to sync, I got this message:

Surprisingly, it was the evolution plugin that failed to connect

Surprisingly, it was the evolution plugin that failed to connect

Useful? Sort of. The Add button let me set up a Blackberry profile with both the barry and evolution plugins, but no matter how I tweaked the settings, I couldn’t get the evolution plugin to connect to my PIM data. Further, after making a synchronization group and adding plugins to it, I couldn’t find a way of replacing a plugin with a different one.

Sick of the limited GUI, I moved on to try KitchenSync, the KDE-based alternative. While it was uglier, I found it to be a far more useful front-end, and managed to get it to sync my device calendar and contacts with my filesystem:

Screenshot-PIM Synchronization - KitchenSync

This process exported all of the calendar and contact information from my Blackberry to a folder full of vCalendar and vContact files on my machine. Now if only I could get Thunderbird to read these files.

After a bit more looking around on the OpenSync webpage, I found a link to these guys, who claim to have programmed an opensync plugin called libopensync-plugin-mozilla-0.1.6 that allows Thunderbird and Lightning to talk to the OpenSync manager. They provide the plugin as a tarball that contains a *.so binary file and a sample *.xml configuration file… but no instructions on how to install them.

Thouroughly lost, I turned to the #opensync channel on for help. Until they see fit to help me out, I’m taking a break from this. No sense in giving myself a heart attack out of extreme frustration.

Edit: I got some help from the members of the #opensync channel, who recommended that I drop the file into the /usr/lib/opensync/plugins/ directory. While this didn’t immediately allow OpenSync to see the plugin, I noticed that every other plugin in the directory has an associated *.la configuration file. So I fabricated my own *.la file, and tried again. That didn’t work either.

The members of the channel then recommended that I try downloading the source code directly from the creators. I did as much, and found that it didn’t include a configure or make script, but just the source code. Not knowing how to proceed, I attempted to follow these instructions, which entailed downloading another 20 or so packages, including the sunbird-xpcom-devel package, which again lacks documentation on how to proceed with installation.

Lacking that package, and again frustrated beyond belief, I decided to drop the issue for another hour or so and do some math homework. That’s right, I chose to do math homework over playing with my computer, because this process has been that frustrating.

It doesn’t help that this entire process seems to be aimed at installed BlueZync, and not the opensync-mozilla-plugin. What the hell is going on here?

New rule added to the experiment

September 30th, 2009 No comments

We took a quick vote and decided to add a new rule to this ongoing experiment. Rule #5 now states:

After committing to a distribution you may not later change to a different one

This now requires us to make the best of our given circumstances, which should result in either a lot more complaints or even more victories. Stay tuned to find out which.

Categories: Tyler B Tags: ,

Gentoo updates and annoyances

September 30th, 2009 2 comments

After hearing about the recent MintCast mention of our experiment, I figured it was high time to post an update with what’s gone right and what’s been enraging about my experiences with Gentoo over the past month.

What’s Gone Right

  • I’ve installed GNOME (Gentoo’s stable version is still 2.24.3, but I’m looking into the newest version) as I needed more of a true “desktop environment” – removable device mounting, in particular, wasn’t always functional in XFCE. Sometimes my external USB drives would be recognized and other times the system would just sit there as if nothing had happened. GNOME handles this task wonderfully, which I assume is in combination with dbus and HAL. I also like the toolbar customization features and login manager.
  • The installation for VirtualBox 3 went really well – I have Windows XP running in a virtual environment for a dedicated accounting image with Simply Accounting 2007. (While I may be running Linux as my primary OS, we can’t afford to stop doing business.) Bridge mode for the network adapter works even better than it has on Windows for me. The VM has its own IP address on my network, allowing the router to manage port forwarding operations and continue with issuing invoices as usual.
  • After giving up on Ekiga and conducting yesterday’s conference call using X-Lite on my Asus netbook running Windows, I gave VOIP on Linux another shot. I removed the Ekiga SIP account from the connection manager since it was giving me incredible grief. Access denied error messages, calls that wouldn’t complete and an odd signup process are not conducive to attracting users to your service! After adding my own Asterisk server credentials, I went ahead and made a test call – both internal extensions and external numbers worked great, and voice quality was wonderful.
  • Networking support has also been improved with my GNOME installation. I can easily save favourite server mountpoints without having to define them in /etc/fstab, and related applications such as VLC seem to handle this style of network mapping in a more consistent manner. For example, mounting “/media/server” through fstab would often result in stuttery video playback from a SMB share. Performing the same operation using GNOME’s Connect to Server option seems to indicate the appropriate buffer size and the video plays smoothly as expected.
  • The ISO downloader .EXE’s from MSDNAA work great under Wine! Just another example of how I could see potentially running Linux as a main system, even though I have to interact with Windows on a regular basis.

What’s Been Enraging

  • Some fonts in web browsing still don’t anti-alias properly. It’s a very intermittent issue only appearing on certain sites, and as soon as I can find a page causing this issue I will get to the root cause. In the meantime, I’ve installed all the appropriate font packages using emerge – there may be a replacement for the “odd man out” in there somewhere.
  • The mixer resets my primary volume to zero on every reboot.
  • I need to use “overlays” and “autounmask” to enable some packages for the AMD64 architecture. autounmask is a pretty decent tool – it automatically finds package dependencies and allows me to force installation of a program that for some unknown reason isn’t available. layman also has helped in this regard, and a searchable directory of overlay packages is decent. I just installed Firefox 3.5 using this technique and all seems well.
  • My mixer now shows the appropriate “mute/unmute” icons:
    Mixer with proper mute/unmute icons
  • Audio inputs and outputs on my “Intel HDA” card aren’t labelled as you might expect. Here’s a list of them:

    Volume Control Preferences
    Of these inputs and outputs, the appropriate one for my front microphone to actually work worth a damn? Capture. Incredibly intuitive.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’d appreciate any suggestions for new programs and neat tricks. Knock on wood that Portage doesn’t start acting like dpkg did on Sasha’s machine!

I am currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for a home server, with a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux clients for both work and personal use.
I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity - XFCE is much more my style of desktop interface.
Check out my profile for more information.

The Linux and its ability to brick itself.

September 29th, 2009 1 comment

Over the weekend, I started a stats assignment that required me to use R. R runs in the terminal, but when you create plots, it brings up graphics. Normally in Windows, you can just copy the window and paste the new plot into whatever word processor you’re using. Linux Mint wasn’t letting me copy the plot – in fact, it wasn’t even letting me use alt-printscreen. Finally, I gave up and tried to install ksnapshot (I figured I could just screenshot a selected area). This is where my troubles began. Ksnapshot refused to install. Actually, everything refused to install. I restarted the computer and found this ridiculous scene on my desktop:

So many screenshots

So many screenshots

Seeing as I apparently had an abundance of screenshots, I gave up on ksnapshot and moved on with my life.

Today I tried to update my system through mintUpdate. Unfortunately, none of the updates went through. I called Tyler and Jake in and we tried installing something – anything – else. Nothing worked, and I kept getting this message in the console:

“dpkg failed in buffer read”

It turns out that Festival (the text-to-speech program) was completely ruining everything. We tried removing it through the terminal, but to no avail. We tried simply accessing it, but the system was having none of it. In the end, we had to go into recovery mode and do some weird file system stuff (I’ll have to ask Jake and Tyler on the details of what exactly it was I did). So far the system seems to be functioning again, but if Tyler and Jake weren’t around I’m sure I’d still be struggling to figure out what the hell was going on.

Categories: God Damnit Linux, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

Another kernel update, another rebuild of my kernel

September 29th, 2009 No comments

Seriously, this is getting annoying

And just when I thought it couldn’t get anymore annoying… it seems as though there isn’t a kmod-catalyst for the newest version of the kernel that I just got updated to. Which means either I get the new kernel or I get to keep my graphics. I think for now I will be sticking with the latter and only move up to the new kernel when there is a kmod-catalyst ready for me.

Happy birthday to us!

September 29th, 2009 No comments

On top of Tyler’s self-congratulatory post, I’d like to commemorate that it’s been two months since our very first post here on The Linux Experiment, with many more to come – don’t you worry.  Extended props from me to the folks at mintCast for mentioning us in their podcast at the beginning of September.  Keep up the awesome work, you guys.


Edit: here’s some birthday cake.  Enjoy.

I am currently running Gnome 2.26 on top of Fedora 11 (Leonidas). Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Dana H Tags:

We’re so popular!

September 29th, 2009 No comments

Well, OK, not really.

Today was the first time I actually went and took a look at the site statistics since we launched about 2 months ago. Without boring you with the details we are actually doing much better, in terms of traffic, than our wildest dreams!

We just wanted to give a quick shout out to everyone who comes and visits this site, posts comments, and helps us take on Linux on a day-to-day basis!

Specifically we would like to give a quick shout out to the podcast mintCast for selecting us as their website of the week. Thanks a lot guys!

Categories: Linux, Tyler B Tags: , , ,

The Magic of Lenny Backports

September 28th, 2009 No comments

This afternoon saw me in a really annoying situation. I was in a coffee shop, wearing a beret, and writing poetry, and couldn’t get a ‘net connection. The coffee shop runs an open network access point, but some asshat in a nearby complex was running a secured access point with the same SSID.

For some reason, my version of the network-manager-gnome package (the older one that shipped with Lenny) could not tell the difference, and I could not get a connection. When I attempted to force a connection, it crashed. Repeatedly.

This being my first experience with anything on Linux crashing, I immediately (and rashly) determined that the problem must lie with my (relatively) old network manager. After all, I was running v0.6.6-4 of an application that had since matured to v0.7.7-1! And my companions, who were running the latest version, were connecting no problem! Of course, this also wasn’t the first set of problems that I had encountered with my network manager.

So upon returning to my domicile (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence), I hit the #debian IRC channel and asked about upgrading to the testing repository, where all of the latest and greatest code is awaiting release as Squeeze, the next version of Debian. Having heard that the code was frozen in July, and that the release was slated for early spring, I figured that by this point, the code there would be fairly mature, and easy enough to use. To the contrary, the members of the channel weren’t comfortable giving me advice on how to upgrade, since in their words, I shouldn’t be considering upgrading to testing unless I understood how to do as much.

With this warning, I was then given instructions on how to update (which didn’t make me feel any better – the last step in the instructions was “be ready for problems”), along with the suggestion that I check out first.

Essentially, this site is an alternate repository dedicated to backporting the latest and greatest code from testing to the last stable version of Debian. This means that, with a simple modification to my etc/apt/sources.list file, I could selectively upgrade the packages on my machine to newer versions.

In fact, I had actually already added this repository to my sources.list file, back when I was working on getting Flash 10 installed. At the time, I just didn’t know enough to understand what it was, or what it’s implications were.

So now, running the newest version of network-manager-gnome, a somewhat more recent version of gnome-do, and clinging to the promise that I can upgrade anything else that seems to have gotten better since the time of the dinosaurs when Lenny was released; my urge to upgrade has subsided, and my commitment to wait out the proper release has been restored.

A minor setback

September 28th, 2009 2 comments

Since this crazy job of mine doesn’t quite feed my mad electronics fetish as much as I might like to, I do a lot of computer troubleshooting on the side… it helps pay the bills, and is a nice way to stay on my toes as far as keeping on top of possible threats out there (since our company’s firewall keeps them out for the most part).  I’ll usually head to a person’s house, get some stuff done, and if it’s still in rough shape (requires a full backup and format) I’ll bring the machine home.

Yesterday, I headed over to my former AVP (Assistant Vice-Preisdent, for those of you not in the know)’s house to get her wireless network running and troubleshoot problems with her one desktop, as well as get file and printer sharing working between two machines.  Her wireless router is a little bit old – a D-Link DI-524 – but it’s something I’ve dealt with before.

After a firmware upgrade, the option to use WPA-PSK encryption was made available (as opposed to standard WEP before).  Great, I thought!  I go to put in a key, hit Apply, and…

Nothing.  Hitting the Apply button does absolutely nothing.  Two computer and router restarts (including a full reset) later, and the same thing was happening.  Some quick research indicated that, hooray hooray, there was an incompatibility with that router’s administration page, Java, and Firefox.  Solution?  Use Internet Explorer.

Here’s where I really ran into a pickle.  This is the first time I’ve ever felt the disadvantage of using a non-Windows operating system.  If I had Windows, I would have been able to fire up IE and just get everything going for them.  Instead, I had to try and install IE6 for Linux, which failed (Wine threw some kind of error).  I ended up using one of my client’s laptops, which they thankfully had sitting around.  Frustrating, but it was easy enough to work around.

Has anyone else had experiences like this?  Things that are *just* out of reach for you because of your choice to use Linux over Windows?

Installing Gnome Do with Docky on openSUSE

September 28th, 2009 1 comment

Before I switched to Windows 7 for my laptop, I used a a dock software called RocketDock to manage my windows and commonly used desktop shortcuts. I liked being able to see my whole desktop ever since I found a good wallpaper site. Back when I rolled Ubuntu, I installed this application called Gnome Do. It’s a Quicksilver like program that just works. However, the newest feature of Gnome Do that I loved was its Docky theme. It puts a dock similar to RocketDock on the bottom of your screen, and integrates it’s OS searching features right into the dock.

I decided to install the application from YaST, the default system administration tool. It indexes a fairly large number of repositories, and it did have Gnome Do. A few minutes later I had the app running, but unfortunately the version was way out of date. Gnome Do is on roughly version 0.8.x, and YaST gave me 0.4.x.

So off I went trying to find a .rpm for Gnome Do that would install. I was met with a lot of failure, with a ton of dependencies unable to be resolved and so on. Next I tried the openSUSE file from Gnome Do’s homepage, but for some reason the servers were down and I was unable to install that way either.

Frustrated and not knowing what to do next, I decided to hop on IRC and see if anyone in #SUSE on could help me out. They told me about this service called Webpin. There I found a .ymp [which is an openSUSE specific installer file like a .deb or .rpm] for Gnome Do, and a ymp for Gnome Do’s plugins. Downloading and opening the files installed the programs without any problems. The last step I had to take to enable Docky was to install compiz and enable desktop compositing. After that, a quick trip to Gnome Do’s preference dialog allowed me to use the Docky theme, and I was up and running!

Categories: Compiz, Free Software, openSUSE, Phil D Tags:

How I solved my audio problems

September 27th, 2009 No comments

Short answer: IRC and #fedora

Long answer:

As you may recall I have been without sound for quite some time now. Finally getting sick and tired of it I ventured into the official Fedora IRC channel to try and get some help. Thankfully the people over there are very helpful. After about an hour of trying this, that and the other thing I finally found success by doing the following:

yum install pavucontrol padevchooser

This installed some very easy to use tools for PulseAudio, the component that I long thought was the cause of my problems.

PulseAudio made easy!

PulseAudio made easy!

After pulling this up I noticed that it was sending the master audio stream to my ATi HDMI port for some reason. A quick switch of this to the “Internal Audio” and everything seemed to work fine! Not sure what caused my default audio stream to be switched to the HDMI port that I’m not even using but I’m just glad that after all of this time I have finally solved the problem!

Programming on Linux

September 27th, 2009 No comments

Now that school as resumed I am getting to spend a lot of time with my Linux install doing day to day productive tasks. The most recent thing that I have had to deal with is programming on Linux. As part of my Computer Graphics class the professor recommended that we install Dev-C++ and GLUT (with related libraries) so that we can code some OpenGL goodness. Well seeing as Dev-C++ is a Windows only IDE that just won’t do.

Instead I opted to install the C and C++ development tools for Eclipse. This works perfectly and within minutes I had a simple “Hello, world!” program up and running. In the past I had only ever used Eclipse for Java programming, however that may be changing permanently in the future.

Next up I had to install GLUT. After a quick search in my Fedora repositories I only had the option to install freeglut listed. So I figured ‘what the heck’ and gave it a try anyway. To my surprise this worked perfectly, even when I still referenced #<GL/glut.h>. This means I can use all of this great open source software to develop the same C++ code that I can then submit to my professor to mark on his Window’s machine.

The only issue I have found is I cannot for the life of me get MinGW to compile the code to a Windows exe. Yet even barring this I must say that all in all I am very impressed!

Gaaaaaaaaaaaay(mes) for Linux

September 26th, 2009 5 comments

Ever the Windows enthusiast, I’ve always been deeply involved in the world of PC gaming.  It’s something I’ve always loved to do, and I’ve been through it all – from the early days of Minesweeper and Solitaire, to the casual gaming market of Elastomania and Peggle, to the full-on phase of Bioshock, Halo, Civilization (all of them), and – sadly, yes – World of Warcraft.

Needless to say, I love gaming on computers.  Always have, always will.  I’ve never been a hardcore console man, but I’ve been known to dabble in Nintendo’s awesome selection (SUPER MARIO GALAXY WHAT) every once in a while.  So to say that gaming on Linux would be important to me is just about the understatement of the century.

I had heard a while back that Unreal Tournament III (UT3) was going to be ported to Linux, after being released to the rest of the world about two years ago.  This game has always interested me, mostly because I get to fire ludicrous weapons and blow up aliens again and again and again.  No such luck in Linux, it would seem – the ‘port’ is still under development.

A quick search of ‘gaming in linux’ on Google spits back a modest fifty million results, so you KNOW I’m not the only person interested in doing something like this.  Several of my former WoW buddies (I kicked the habit) played in Linux with impressive results, and it’s been something I’ve wanted to emulate ever since we all started this experiment.  While I have yet to sit down and attempt the installation of a legitimate Windows-only game into Fedora, I have made a selection of a few free (and some open-source!) games I’ve been keeping occupied with in the meantime.  Hope you enjoy!

  • Nexuiz – a free, open-source first-person cross-platform shooter (runs on Windows, Linux and OS/X)
  • Scorched3D – a 3D update of one of my favourite games of all time, Scorched Earth
  • Armacycles-AD – all ready covered by Tyler, this game is addictive as hell

Any other suggestions you might have would be fantastic!  Next up is trying to get some Steam games running…

DNS Not Satisfactory

September 25th, 2009 No comments

While trying to connect to a remote webserver via SSH last night, I found that my machine refused to resolve the hostname to an IP address. I couldn’t ping the server either, but could view a webpage hosted on it. Now this was a new one on me – I figured that my machine was caching a bad DNS record for the webserver, and couldn’t connect because the server’s IP had since changed. That didn’t really explain why I was able to access the server from a webbrowser, but I ran with it. So how do you refresh your DNS cache in Linux? It’s easy to do in Windows, but the Goog and the Bing let me down spectacularly on this issue.

This morning, I tried to connect via SSH from my school network, and couldn’t get a connection there either. This reinforced the idea that a local DNS cache might have an outdated record in it, because at school, I was using a different nameserver than at home, and a whole 12 hours had elapsed. Out of theories, and lacking a method to refresh my local DNS cache, I hit the #debian channel on IRC for some guidance. Unlike my last two trips to this channel, I got help from a number of people within minutes (must be a timezone thing), and found out that unless I manually installed one, Debian does not maintain a DNS cache. Well, there goes that idea.

So where was I getting my DNS lookup service? A quick look at my /etc/resolv.conf file showed that the only entry in it was, which is the IP of my home router. The file also has a huge warning banner that claims that any changes will be overwritten by the operating system. Makes sense, as when I connect to a new network, I presumably get DNS resolution from their router, which may have a different IP address than mine. The guys on IRC instructed me to try to connect to the server with it’s IP address instead of it’s hostname, thereby taking the DNS resolution at the router out of the picture. This worked just fine.

They then instructed me to add a line to the file with the IP address of the nameserver that the router is using. In the case of our home network, we use OpenDNS, a local company with static servers. I did so, and could immediately resolve the IP of my remote server, and obtain an SSH connection to it.

Well fine, my problem is solved by bypassing DNS resolution at the router, but it still doesn’t explain what’s going on here. Why, if DNS resolution was failing at the router level (presumably because the router maintains some kind of DNS cache), did it work for my webbrowser, but not the for ssh, scp, or ping commands? Don’t they all resolve nameservers in the same way? Further, if it was the router cache that had a bad record in it, why did the problem also manifest itself at school, where the router is taken entirely out of the picture?

Further, will the file actually be overwritten by the OS the next time I connect to a different wireless network? If so, will my manual entry be erased, and will the problem return? Time will tell. Something smells fishy here, and it all points to the fact that my machine is in fact retaining a local DNS cache. How else can I explain away the problem manifesting itself on the school network? Further, even if I do have a local cache that is corrupted or contains a bad record, why did Iceweasel bypass it and resolve the address of the webserver at the router level (thereby allowing it to connect, even though the ssh, scp, and ping commands could not)?


My audio doesn’t work anymore

September 21st, 2009 1 comment

Yup. Not sure why. It just happened. I have tried messing around in my audio settings and still nothing. In fact the only audio device I can get to play is not PulseAudio, or anything standard like that, but rather the Intel audio card that it found for my system. While this is all fine and promising it still doesn’t work right. When I tried to set it as my primary device and restarted my machine KDE threw a bunch of error messages my way saying that it couldn’t use the Intel device (really? because that was the only one that worked for me…) and instead fell back to PulseAudio (really? because that one doesn’t work for me…).

Why is it that Linux works great for a short while and then suddenly breaks itself?

These lockups are getting pretty annoying

September 20th, 2009 4 comments

This morning I was using Firefox with about a dozen tabs open when my computer locked up. It froze and was completely unresponsive – basically DOA. I decided to reboot the system, and everything was working fine until I reopened Firefox. It loaded my previous session, and the computer locked up again. After a second reboot, I opened Firefox and decided to start a new session and so far everything has been running smoothly.

I’m not sure why my system does this, but it’s getting pretty damn annoying. More importantly, the fact that these crashes are forcing me to reboot is really getting on my nerves. While I didn’t have anything important open, in the next few days I’m going to be using R through the terminal, and there’s a chance that a crash like this could lose me a significant amount of work, particularly since R doesn’t have a restore capability like my other programs.

I’m also hesitant to blame Firefox for what’s going on since this has also happened in Thunderbird and in Pidgin. Hopefully I can figure out what’s going on soon – Linux Mint has been pretty fantastic, and this has really put a damper on my experience. Is there any sort of error log I can look at? Ideally I want to be able to replicate the conditions before the crash to see if I can isolate any causes.

Categories: God Damnit Linux, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

Mounting an NTFS-formatted External Drive

September 20th, 2009 7 comments

I have a Western Digital 250GB NTFS-formatted external hard drive that I use primarily to store backups of my Windows machine. Since I’m away from my house for a couple of days, I used the drive to bring along some entertainment, but encountered some troubles getting Debian Lenny to play nice with it:

mount-errorAfter searching around for a bit, I found a helpful thread on the Ubuntu forums that explained that this problem could be caused by a few different things. First, with the drive plugged in, I ran

sudo fdisk -l

from the terminal, which brought up a summary of all disks currently recognized by the machine:

jon@debtop:/$ sudo fdisk -l
Disk /dev/sda: 40.0 GB, 40007761920 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4864 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0xcccdcccd
 Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1   *           1          31      248976   83  Linux
/dev/sda2              32        4864    38821072+  83  Linux

Disk /dev/dm-0: 39.7 GB, 39751725568 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4832 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000

Disk /dev/dm-0 doesn't contain a valid partition table
Disk /dev/dm-1: 38.0 GB, 38067503104 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4628 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000

Disk /dev/dm-1 doesn't contain a valid partition table
Disk /dev/dm-2: 1681 MB, 1681915904 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 204 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000
Disk /dev/dm-2 doesn't contain a valid partition table
Disk /dev/sdb: 250.0 GB, 250059350016 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 30401 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x5b6ac646

Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1               1       30401   244196001    7  HPFS/NTFS

Judging by the size of the drives, I figured out that the OS saw my drive at the location /dev/sdb, and the partition that I wanted to mount (the only partition on the drive) at the location /dev/sdb1.

Now, to determine why Linux wasn’t mounting the drive, I checked the fstab file at /etc/fstab to see if there was some other entry for sdb that was preventing it from mounting correctly:

# /etc/fstab: static file system information.
# <file system> <mount point>   <type>  <options>       <dump>  <pass>
proc            /proc           proc    defaults        0       0
/dev/mapper/debtop-root /               ext3    errors=remount-ro 0       1
/dev/sda1       /boot           ext2    defaults        0       2
/dev/mapper/debtop-swap_1 none            swap    sw              0       0
/dev/scd0       /media/cdrom0   udf,iso9660 user,noauto     0       0
/dev/fd0        /media/floppy0  auto    rw,user,noauto  0       0

Since there was no entry there that should have overwritten sdb, I gave up on that line of inquiry, and decided to try manually mounting the drive. I know that Debian can read ntfs drives using the -t ntfs argument for the mount command, so I navigated over to the /media/ directory and created a folder to mount the drive in:

jon@debtop:/$ cd /media/
jon@debtop:/media$ sudo mkdir WesternDigital
jon@debtop:/media$ ls
cdrom  cdrom0  floppy  floppy0  WesternDigital
jon@debtop:/media$ sudo mount -t ntfs /dev/sdb1 /media/WesternDigital/
jon@debtop:/media$ sudo -s
root@debtop:/media# cd WesternDigital
root@debtop:/media/WesternDigital# ls
KeePass.kdbx  nws  $RECYCLE.BIN  System Volume Information

As you can see, the contents of my external drive were now accessible in the location where they ought to have been if Debian had correctly mounted the drive when it was plugged in. The only caveat to the process is that the mount function is available only to root users, meaning that the mountpoint was created by root, and my user account lacks the necessary permissions to read or write to the external drive:


I figured that this issue could be solved by using chmod to grant all users read and write permissions to the mountpoint:

root@debtop:/media# chmod +rw WesternDigital
chmod: changing permissions of `WesternDigital': Read-only file system

Well what the hell does that mean? According to this post (again on the Ubuntu forums), the ntfs support in Linux is experimental, and as such, all ntfs drives are mounted as read only. Specifically, this drive is owned by the root user, and has only read and execute permisions, but lacks write permissions.

According to this thread on the forums, there is another ntfs driver for Linux called ntfs-3g that will allow me full access to my ntfs-formatted drive. After sucessfully adding the ntfs-3g drivers to my system, I dismounted the drive, and attempted to re-mount it with the following command:

mount -t ntfs-3g /dev/sdb1 /media/WesternDigital

This time, the mount command appeared to almost work, but I got an error message along the way, indicating that the drive had not been properly dismounted the last time it was used on Windows, and giving me the option to force the mount:

Mount is denied because NTFS is marked to be in use. Choose one action:

Choice 1: If you have Windows then disconnect the external devices by
 clicking on the 'Safely Remove Hardware' icon in the Windows
 taskbar then shutdown Windows cleanly.

Choice 2: If you don't have Windows then you can use the 'force' option for
 your own responsibility. For example type on the command line:

 mount -t ntfs-3g /dev/sdb1 /media/WesternDigital -o force

Well, since I didn”t have a Windows box lying about that I can use to dismount the drive properly, I’ll took a shot at using the force option. After warning me again that it was resetting the log file and forcing the mount, the machine finally mounted my drive with full permissions for the owner, group, and other users!

drwxrwxrwx 1 root root  4096 2009-09-18 15:40 WesternDigital

After a couple of manual tests, I confirmed that both my user account and the root user had full read/write/execute access to this drive, and that I could use it like any other drive that the system has access to. Further, thanks to the painful XBMC install process, I already had the codecs required to play all of the TV shows that I brought along.

Softphones, anyone?

September 18th, 2009 1 comment

Any recommendations for a softphone (VOIP client) that runs under Gentoo? I’m at the end of my rope – my usual poison X-Lite doesn’t want to run in any sort of fashion. I essentially need something that can connect to an Asterisk server for the occasional call where I want to use a headset.

I am currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for a home server, with a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux clients for both work and personal use.
I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity - XFCE is much more my style of desktop interface.
Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Free Software, Gentoo, Jake B Tags: